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Sergey Fyodorovich Durov (Russian: Серге́й Фёдорович Ду́ров, 1816, Oryol Governorate, Russian Empire - December 18 [o.s. 6], 1869, Poltava, Ukraine, then Russian Empire) was a Russian poet, translator, writer, and political activist. A member of the Petrashevsky Circle and later the leader of his own underground group of intellectuals, Durov was arrested in 1849, spent 8 months in the Petropavloskaya Fortress, followed by 4 years in Omsk prison.

Sergey Fyodorovich Durov
Durov, Sergej Fjodorovich.jpg
Born(1815-01-15)January 15, 1815
DiedDecember 18, 1869(1869-12-18) (aged 54)
Poltava, Ukraine (then Russian Empire)
Occupationpoet, translator, political activist
Years active1830s – 1869

In 1857 Durov returned from Siberia, and the ban on his literary activity was lifted in 1862. But, broken physically by his long ordeal, he fell critically ill soon after and died at the age of 54.[1][2]



Sergey Fyodorovich Durov was born in the Oryol Governorate in the family of a minor nobleman. His father, an army colonel, died in 1834 penniless and the boy's education in the Nobility Boarding school at the Saint Petersburg University (1828-1833) was paid by his uncle on mother side Nikolai Khmelnitsky, a well-known playwright of his time. In 1833-1847 Durov worked as a civil servant, then retired and made literature his profession. Most of Durov's works - poems, short stories and novellas, - were published in 1843-1849, before the arrest, mostly in almanacs, magazines and newspapers.[1]

In the late 1847 Durov started to attend regularly Petrashevsky's Fridays. Dissatisfied with what he saw as the chaotic nature of these meetings, he - along with Alexander Palm and A.D.Shchelkov - in the spring of 1849 organised his own underground circle, including brothers Fyodor and Mikhail Dostoyevsky, Aleksey Pleshcheyev, Nikolay Speshnev, Nikolai Grigoriev, P.N.Filippov, V.A. Golovinsky and F.N.Lvov. The social and economical situation in Russia was taken as the main issue. Among the documents read there was the banned Belinsky's Letter to Gogol, as well as "The Soldier Talk" (Soldatskaya beseda), the first ever document propagating the revolutionary ideas in the Russian army. Four of the circle members, Speshnev, Dostoyevsky, Filippov and Lvov, decided to organize the underground lithography. Durov disliked the idea and in April 1849 declared his 'evenings' closed.[1]

On April 23, 1849, Durov was arrested and spent 8 months in a single camera in the Petropavlovskaya Fortress. Along with the other Petrashevtsy he was taken to the parade ground of the Semionovsky Regiment in Saint Petersburg, and lined up for execution. At the last moment the execution was stopped and it was revealed that his sentence had been commuted to katorga. Durov was sent to Omsk in chains with Fyodor Dostoyevsky where they were to spend 8 years in a convict colony and the rest of his life as a soldier in Siberia. That sentence was reduced to 4 years as a Prisoner by Nicholas I. The sentence only commenced when the convicts entered the Prison at Omsk. Dostoyevsky wrote about his experience as a convict in Omsk in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead.

After Durov's release he spent one year serving in the army as a soldier, then retired due to ill health and settled in Omsk. Having received the permission to leave Siberia, he went to Odessa and stayed at his friend Palm's house. There he died in 1869, after long illness.[1]


As a poet, Durov was noticed by Vissarion Belinsky who reviewed his "Molodik" poem (1844) positively, yet opined that the author was "notable more for his earnestness than talent." Influenced by Lermontov, Baratynsky and Tyutchev, Durov, according to biographer O.Bogdanova, still left several "really exciting pieces, marked by fine sparseness, energy and tightness." Durov translated many poems by Victor Hugo, André Marie de Chénier, Lord Byron, Adam Mickiewicz and is credited with "being the first and, arguably, the best" Russian translator of Henri Auguste Barbier. As a short story writer, Durov was very much a "natural school" component, his sketches (with the exception of "The Auntie" and "Khalatnik") and novellas ("Somebody Else’s Child", "A Novel in Notes") were hardly original, according to biographer Bogdanova.

While Sergey Durov's literary legacy is lean, the strength of his personality has made a deep impression upon the people who knew him, first and foremost Petrashevsky's cohorts (Pleshcheev, N.Grigoriev, A.P.Milyukov) and members of his own circle (Ch.Valikhanov, G.N.Potanin, Viktor Burenin and others). He became the prototype of Rudkovsky (in Alexander Palm's novel Alexey Slobodin), and Sornev (Pavel Kovalevsky's Life’s Summary). Several poets, including Pleshcheev dedicated poems to Sergey Durov.[1]

Select bibliographyEdit

  • Somebody Else’s Child (Chuzhoye ditya, Чужое дитя. 1846, short novel)
  • "Publius Sirus" (Публиус Сирус, 1847, short story)
  • "Khalatnik" (Халатник, 1847, short story)
  • "A Novel in Notes" (Roman v zapiskakh, Роман в записках, 1847)
  • Auntie (Tyotinka, Тетинька, 1848, short novel)
  • "A Sad Story With a Happy End" (Grustnaya povest s vesyolym kontsom, Грустная повесть с веселым концом, 1848, short novel)


  1. ^ a b c d e Bogdanova, O.A. (1990). "Sergey Fyodorovich Durov". Russian Writers. Biobibliographical dictionary. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  2. ^ "Sergey Fyodorovich Durov". Russian Biographical Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-01-13.